How Does the Digestive System Work?
The digestive system comprises organs, glands, and cells that work together to break down food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste.
The process starts when food goes into the mouth.
The tongue helps chew and swallow the food, which travels through the pharynx (or throat) into the Oesophagus.
It passes into the stomach, where enzymes break it down before moving to the small intestine to absorb nutrients.
The small intestine absorbs most vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream.
It moves into the large intestine, where water is absorbed, while other waste products are moved out by peristalsis (the wavelike motion of muscles in the intestines) until they leave as faeces.
Common Gastrointestinal Conditions
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) causes acid to flow back into the Oesophagus.
Peptic Ulcer Disease affects the digestive system. It occurs when the lining of the stomach or small intestine becomes inflamed and begins to bleed. The symptoms of PUD include abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, and occasionally vomiting or diarrhoea.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding occurs when the lining of the digestive tract bleeds or leaks, causing red blood cells to leak into your stool, which will look like black or tarry stools.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease affects the digestive system and causes inflammation of the intestine lining, leading to abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and other symptoms.
Acute Liver failure is a sudden, severe liver condition that affects the Liver's work. Alcohol abuse and hepatitis B or C are the leading causes, along with exposure to certain drugs or toxins.
Colitis affects the large intestine. Various things, including bacteria and viruses, as well as food allergies and other environmental factors, may cause Colitis.
Liver Malignancy occurs when the Liver becomes cancerous. Liver cancer can result from viruses, alcohol, and other substances.
Gastrointestinal Malignancy is a collection of cancers that affect the digestive system. The most common types of gastrointestinal cancer are colorectal cancer, oesophagal cancer, stomach cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Manometry measures pressure in the body to diagnose problems with the Oesophagus and stomach. Doctors insert a tube into the Oesophagus or stomach and inject air or fluid, allowing measurement of pressure changes to indicate problems such as reflux disease or stomach ulcers.
A Colonoscopy allows the doctor to look for polyps, tumours, or other abnormalities that could be cancerous. The procedure includes inserting a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope into the rectum and advancing it to view the entire length of the large intestine. It also allows the doctor to take tissue samples (biopsies) for examination under a microscope.
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) uses an endoscope to diagnose and treat biliary tract problems. Doctors use a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope to see inside the digestive tract. The endoscope also has a channel for injecting dye. The ERCP procedure determines if there are stones, tumours, or other obstructions in the bile ducts or Pancreas.
Hydrogen Breath Test
A Hydrogen Breath Test determines whether a person has a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. The test involves drinking a solution that contains lactulose and glucose. Bacteria produce hydrogen gas in the colon as they break down lactulose. The hydrogen gas then travels to the lungs, exhaling as breath. The amount of hydrogen present in the exhaled breath indicates how much bacterial overgrowth is present in the colon.
OGD - Oesophago-Gastro Duodenoscopy
Oesophago-Gastro Duodenoscopy (OGD) is an endoscopy that allows physicians to examine the inside of the stomach and duodenum. A thin, flexible tube captures images and provides information about abnormalities in those areas. A gastroenterologist may perform an OGD if they suspect stomach cancer or a gastrointestinal problem such as Crohn's disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
Endoscopic ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves to diagnose and see inside the body without incision. It diagnoses medical conditions such as gallbladder disease, kidney stones, liver tumours, appendicitis and pancreatitis.
A Liver Scan measures the function of the Liver. It uses either radioactive tracers or ultrasound waves to determine the Liver's size, shape, and consistency. A liver scan diagnoses or monitors diseases like hepatitis C, cirrhosis, or cancer. A liver scan may also detect internal bleeding in the abdominal cavity and assess for damage from a recent injury.
Treatments and Procedures
Gallbladder Stones Surgery
Gallbladder Stones Surgery removes gallstones from the Gallbladder. Gallstones are small, hard deposits in the Gallbladder and can cause discomfort or pain. The symptoms of gallstones include pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, jaundice, and vomiting. The surgery involves removing the Gallbladder with a scalpel or through an endoscope inserted into an incision on the side of the abdomen.
Appendix surgery removes the appendix, a small pouch that connects to the large intestine and provides support for a variety of bacteria. Symptoms of appendicitis may include abdominal pain and tenderness, nausea, vomiting, fever and constipation. If the doctor suspects appendicitis, they will prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to help treat the infection until surgery.
Rectal Prolapse Surgery
Rectal prolapse is when the rectum pushes out through the anus due to muscle weakness that usually holds it in place. Rectal prolapses may occur independently or as part of another condition, such as Hirschsprung's disease or anorectal malformations. Rectal prolapse can also be present at birth (congenital). The surgery repairs the rectum and prevents further complications such as infections or bowel obstruction.
A Splenectomy removes the Spleen from the body, a large lymph node in the upper left of the abdomen. It helps fight infection and filter blood. Splenectomy treats people who have sickle cell disease, a severe genetic disorder that affects red blood cells. Its symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain and swelling, chest pain when taking deep breaths, abdominal pain or swelling, loss of appetite and weight loss. Surgical removal of the Spleen can help prevent painful complications related to this disease.
Stapled haemorrhoidectomy removes swollen and inflamed tissues from the rectum. It can also remove prolapsed haemorrhoids. The procedure involves cutting the skin around the anus and then stapling it together to reduce bleeding during surgery. The stapling also allows less trauma to the anal muscles and tissue than traditional open surgery methods would cause.
Sleeve gastrectomy removes the stomach and creates a smaller stomach pouch called a "sleeve," which helps patients feel full faster and longer. It is a laparoscopic procedure which uses several small incisions in the abdomen.
This procedure may help people who have obesity with comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea achieve their weight loss goals without undergoing a more invasive procedure.
Roux-en Y Gastric Bypass
Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass treats obesity. It involves reducing the stomach pouch size and connecting it to the small intestine through a Y-shaped opening, limiting the quantity of food, which helps people lose weight by limiting their calorie intake. The procedure treats severe obesity and is usually only considered if other methods have failed. It is an invasive surgery involving removing part of the stomach and connecting it directly to the small intestine to reduce food intake.
One Anastomosis Gastric Bypass
One Anastomosis Gastric Bypass divides the stomach into two chambers. The surgeon connects the small upper stomach pouch to the middle section of the stomach and the middle section to the lower portion of the stomach created from part of the small intestine. The procedure allows food to bypass most of the digestive system and limits the absorption of food.
Duodenal Switch is a weight loss surgery involving removing the first part of the small intestine, where most of the food digests. The surgeons connect the duodenum (foremost part of the small intestine) to an upper pouch called a "duodenal switch" and attach the stomach's portion to this upper pouch.
Duodenal Switch helps people lose more weight than other types of weight loss surgeries because it restricts how much food they can eat at one time.
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy (ESG)
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy (ESG) is a bariatric surgery involving removing about 75% of the stomach, leaving behind a tube-shaped sleeve that connects to the small intestine. This surgery treats obesity and can be performed laparoscopically with little risk of complications.
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